Breslov chassiduth was founded by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov. Born in the Ukrainian town of Medzeboz, Rebbe Nachman’s mother Feige, was the daughter of the Baal Shem’s daughter Udel; his father Rabbi Simcha was the son of Rabbi Nachman Horodenker, one of the Baal Shem Tov’s closest disciples.
Prior to his arrival in Breslov in 1802, Rebbe Nachman lived and taught in other towns in the Ukraine including Ossatin, Moheilov, Zlatopol, and Odessa. However, when he established himself in Breslov he stated, “Today we have planted the name of Breslov Chassidim. This name will never disappear because my followers will always be called after the town of Breslov.”
What is entirely unique about Rebbe Nachman is that he taught his students exactly how to remove the barriers that stood between themselves and Hashem. The Hebrew letters of the word Breslov (ברסלב) can be rearranged to spell lev basar (לב בשר – the “ס” and “ש” sounds are interchangeable), “a heart of flesh” – echoing the prophecy in Ezekiel (36:26): “I [Hashem] will take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (This is the reason some adherents spell the name “Breslev”, stressing the aspect of lev – heart).
Breslov Chassiduth is an application of the hidden light of the Torah to serving Hashem through sincerity, joy, and simplicity. Rebbe Nachman emphasized tefilah (prayer) and daily Torah study – especially shulchan aruch and halacha. Breslov teachings explain how emunah (faith) serves as a means to do teshuvah (repentance) and that every Jew can return to Hashem at any moment, no matter where he or she is situated on a geographical, educational, or spiritual level.
In addition to the regular daily services in the synagogue, Rebbe Nachman advised his Chassidim to speak to Hashem in their own words as well. This is done in complete privacy during hitbodeduth (seclusion) every day. The reestablishment of this ancient form of Jewish tefilah helps one develop better concentration during prayer from the siddur. Hitbodeduth is essential to another basic emphasis in Rebbe Nachman’s teachings: tikun hamidoth – the path of personal and inter-personal development.